Cloud Craziness

Will Google Stadia really change gaming?


Photo courtesy of Google

Google Stadia. Google’s “revolutionary” cloud gaming service, revealed at GDC 2019 (a major game developer expo), is designed to twist the world of gaming on its head. No steep buy-in, YouTube integration, and widespread availability certainly add to the flashiness of the product. But will it actually deliver on its dream, and moreover, change the future of gaming?

If you don’t know what cloud gaming is, you aren’t alone. The idea is that rather than owning a console or expensive gaming PC, you stream games over the cloud to a much cheaper or lower-end device. Google isn’t the first to jump in, but the argument is that their impressive server setup and wide device manufacturing means that this version of cloud gaming will be the most accessible.

Back to the original question: will Stadia revolutionize the gaming market? That’s a difficult question, but I’d argue for most, the answer is no. While Google Stadia seems to be the best shot out of a long line of cloud gaming products – think PS Now, Geforce Now, etc. – there are a lot of questions to be raised about how the product benefits everyone. Slow internet? Say goodbye to cloud gaming. Want every new game on the PC market? See you around. Sure, Stadia is designed to shift the world of video gaming, but it’s likely too radical for most audiences, who don’t have the internet or need access to all the latest and greatest games (Stadia has only been shown to support a couple games, implying it would be a port to their service like Xbox or PS4 from a PC title).

Admittedly, there are still a lot of unknowns about Google’s service. Will games be included in a subscription, or sold like traditional games? What’s the price point, as well as the controller price, which is required for Chromecast play? How will YouTube integration work? All of these are still unknowns, set to be revealed in June (likely at major gaming expo E3). Plus, Google has a decent track record with game streaming, after their in-browser Project Stream test last December, which let users play Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey in Chrome without any extra downloads.

Despite those counterpoints, Stadia seems too risky right now. It is reasonable to expect solid Internet requirements, the games seem limited, and the cost might be out of reach if it is a subscription. Why spend for a game on such a risky platform when you could make a one-time investment into a console, where you can sell your games when you finish them, or don’t like them? I think Stadia has the power to change gaming. I really do. Easy access from a range of devices, connected to a game with the settings cranked all the way up, sounds great. But that change will have to come from a remarkable, mind-blowing product, and from what we know, Stadia seems like it will have a hard time trying to find an audience: good Internet, money to spend, limited taste in games, and a need for the highest game settings, or without a console or PC to play on.

Stadia may be the console killer. Stadia may be a mind-boggling innovation for gaming. But right now, Stadia looks like it’s only going to really work out for a handful of people.